Songs recorded before February 15, 1972 are not protected by U.S. federal copyright laws. Some artists, however, have been granted copyright protection by individual state laws. A judge in California recently permitted a class action lawsuit to progress against Sirius XM Holdings Inc, a New York company.

Flo & Eddie Inc., a company founded by members of the popular singing group the Turtles, initiated the suit. The group is most famous for their song ‘Happy Together” that was recorded in the 1960s.

The suit has been tracked due to its potential implications for digital media. By allowing the suit to continue in class action status, the judge opens the door for other artists to join in the litigation. The plaintiffs originally filed the suit seeking royalty pay for Sirius’s play of their former group’s songs. Earlier, the same judge had ruled that Sirius was liable for nonpayment of royalties. In its argument against a class action decision, Sirius took the position that the calculation of damages would be too difficult to determine for different participants in the class action. In addition to California, the Flo & Eddie company has previously filed lawsuits in Florida and New York, and it is seeking more than $100 million to cover the claims for apparent infringements by Sirius and Pandora Media Inc.

Intellectual property may provide income to not only singing groups, but also authors, photographers, and software developers. The laws of the U.S. as well as those many states recognize the importance of protecting the ownership and the right to make money from a creation or an invention. An attorney may be able to help artists understand the scope of copyright laws in order to protect the use of their creation without proper compensation.

Source: Reuters, “Sirius XM to face class action in Turtles copyright suit”, Andrew Chung, May 27, 2015